I enjoy bibimbap.
In American Korean restaurants, bibimbap is typically served as a large bowl of rice with individual portions of each topping arranged over it, like so. The traditional way to eat it is to slather it in sauce, then thoroughly mix it all together, resulting in a fried rice-like mixture.
I prefer not to eat my bibimbap this way - I find that I typically can't eat an entire restaurant serving of bibimbap at a sitting, that when I mix everything together it has too high a proportion of rice for my taste, and that if I add enough sauce to keep the rice from being boring, the dish ends up being unpleasantly gloppy and over-sweet.
Instead, I generally treat it like a stir fry - lightly dress the toppings in sauce, mix them together while leaving the rice underneath alone, and eat bites of rice with toppings. By the time I've eaten all the toppings, I've typically eaten about half of the rice - this is about as much as I can eat before I'm full anyway.
I find that this frequently results in the wait staff at Korean restaurants returning to my table after I've begun eating and informing me that I am not eating my bibimbap properly, under the (not unreasonable) assumption that I just don't know what I'm doing (I am white).
I recently went to a Korean restaurant with some friends (Korean-American and Chinese-American). While deciding what to order, I semi-jokingly said, "Man, I want bibimbap, but I always get yelled at for eating it wrong." My friends encouraged me to go for it. Think, "heck with 'eating it wrong,' it's your food, do what you want!"
Thus affirmed, I ordered bibimbap, started to eat it in my heretical way, and sure enough, our waiter returned to correct me. I nodded along, half-heartedly mixed in the top centimeter or so of my rice in the hopes that he'd be placated, and gave my friends an "I-told-you-so" look as he walked away.
In the future, I would like to:
- Avoid coming off as disrespectful to Korean cuisine and culture, and not adopt an I-know-better-than-you attitude toward the staff. I am concerned that the obvious solution (just telling the wait staff that I prefer to eat it my way) would communicate this kind of disrespect.
- If possible, avoid having wait staff return to correct my behavior, as I find this awkward and embarrassing.
- If possible, continue to eat my bibimbap the way I like (but if this is inconsistent with the previous two goals, c'est la vie).
Is there a way I can accomplish these goals simultaneously?